What is a Wound Care Nurse and Why are They in Demand?
As the baby boomer population continues to age, and more and more people require extended medical care, nationwide demand for specialized nurses is at an all-time high. According to the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society (WOCN), hospitals and patient care facilities are not only in need of trained medical professionals, they specifically need those that are experts in treating chronic age-related wounds and skin care issues.
A WOC nurse facilitates optimal care for patients dealing with complex wounds, ostomies or incontinence issues. WOC nurses are an important and valued member of the healthcare team and make a tremendous difference in their patients’ comfort and quality of life.
Pursuing a career in WOC means that you’ll not only make a difference in healing your patients, but you’ll also provide them with the essential knowledge and resources that they need to make a long-term recovery.
What do WOC nurses do?
WOC nurses provide care for both chronic and acute wounds. An acute wound is a new wound, such as a cut, scrape, bruise or incision that is most often a result of surgery or trauma. A chronic wound is usually caused by a disease or condition—such as an ulcer, cancer or diabetes—and may not heal as quickly as an acute wound. WOC nurses are primarily responsible for assessing and prescribing appropriate wound care treatment. They may work in a variety of different healthcare settings, including acute care, long-term care and home health.
Why are WOC nurses important?
Wound care nurses uphold the same values as nurses in other specializations—the patient should always come first, and their comfort and recovery is of utmost priority. But, for wound care nurses, providing optimal care for their patients often goes beyond providing necessary treatment.
In order to help patients make a full recovery, WOC nurses must be critical thinkers, educators and experts in patient care.
First, a WOC nurse must consider, “What is the best course of treatment for my patient?” There are several procedures that can be used to treat a wound, and each patient’s situation is different. In addition to being well-versed in wound care procedures, WOC nurses must be thorough in evaluating their patients and must recommend treatments to facilitate timely wound healing.
WOC nurses must also ask themselves, “What additional education does my patient need?” Many patients might believe that they can treat wounds themselves using information that they find online. However, treating complex wounds requires the care of a certified medical professional, and WOC nurses must often advise their patients against self-treatment. They must also stay informed of emerging home remedies so that they can educate their patients about how to properly use a product, or implement an alternate, more appropriate plan of care.
Finally, WOC nurses must consider, “How can my patients be empowered to care for themselves?” Wound care nurses must remember that they are treating a person—not just a condition. They must understand their patient’s injury, living situation, support system and the resources that will help the patient make a full and fast recovery. Every patient is unique, and WOC nurses must base their treatment recommendations based on their patients’ specific needs.
Typically, before being discharged from the hospital or emergency room, a WOC nurse will review both the symptoms of infection and the procedures for continued care with the patient. A WOC nurse may also recommend extended out-of-home treatment, such as a portable barometric wound healing vacuum. This device allows the wound to stay open but sealed to the outside environment. This makes it possible for patients with complex or chronic wounds to be physically active during the healing process, and they can very often go home after an initial treatment.
In order to become a WOC nurse, you’ll need to first obtain your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Many WOC nurses have several years of experience as a registered nurse (RN) and may also choose to pursue a specialized degree, or their MSN. Herzing University offers both BSN programs and RN to BSN programs. For registered nurses and prospective nurses alike, WOC is a rewarding career specialty that allows you to play an instrumental role in both ensuring optimal patient care and guiding your patients to recovery.
Faith Martell RN MSN is a full-time nursing instructor at Herzing University, teaching Adult Health II theory and clinical, nursing informatics and NCLECX prep. Faith holds an MSN in nursing informatics. She has experience in critical care, emergency room and oncology surgery. Faith is married and is soon expecting a new baby into the family.